Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career out of exposing bias through his comedic personas, but recently he tackled it head-on.
In a speech delivered to the Anti-Defamation League's Never Is Now summit on Thursday, the actor slammed certain social media companies as "the greatest propaganda machine in history" and accused six tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley of caring "more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy."
Targeting major social media platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and Google's parent company, Alphabet -- as "publishers" disseminating information to billions of people around the globe, Baron Cohen called on those in charge of the platforms to adopt stricter policies against conspiracy theories and hate speech.
He also said there should be harsh penalties when damaging information is spread.
"In their defense, these social media companies have taken some steps to reduce hate and conspiracies on their platforms, but these steps have been mostly superficial," he said. "A sewer of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories that threatens democracy and our planet -- this cannot possibly be what the creators of the internet had in mind. I believe it's time for a fundamental rethink of social media and how it spreads hate, conspiracies and lies."
Representatives for Alphabet, Google and YouTube declined to respond to ABC News when asked to comment on Baron Cohen's speech. YouTube published a blog post in June on the platform's efforts to combat hate speech.
Twitter told ABC News: "Our rules are clear: There is no place on Twitter for hateful conduct, terrorist organizations or violent extremist groups."
A statement provided by its representative continued: "Because of these rules, we've permanently suspended the accounts of 186 groups, half of which advocate violence against civilians alongside some form of extremist white supremacist ideology."
However, much of Baron Cohen's speech was aimed at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who announced last month his company would not be fact-checking political advertisements, claiming such oversight is tantamount to censorship. His company released a statement doubling down on that sentiment, stating that "in a democracy, people should decide what is credible, not tech companies." Zuckerberg made these remarks himself in a speech at Georgetown University last month.
Baron Cohen disagreed.
"If Facebook were around in the 1930s," he said, "it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his 'solution' to the 'Jewish problem.'"
"The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged -- stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It's why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It's why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth," Baron Cohen continued. "And it's no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history -- the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, 'Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.'"
A spokesperson for Facebook said in an emailed statement to ABC News: "Sacha Baron Cohen misrepresented Facebook's policies. Hate speech is actually banned on our platform. We ban people who advocate for violence and we remove anyone who praises or supports it. Nobody -- including politicians -- can advocate or advertise hate, violence or mass murder on Facebook."
Baron Cohen ended his speech by calling on society to uphold basic human rights and ensure that nobody is targeted for "who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray."
"If," he said, "we make that our aim -- if we prioritize truth over lies, tolerance over prejudice, empathy over indifference and experts over ignoramuses -- then maybe, just maybe, we can stop the greatest propaganda machine in history, we can save democracy, we can still have a place for free speech and free expression, and, most importantly, my jokes will still work."